End this Bharat Bandh charade

Living in India isn’t easy. It hasn’t been for a while now, thanks to everything from overcrowded cities and crumbling infrastructure to poor planning and shoddy execution of just about all our government’s major projects. Add to this a massive amount of red tape and that ever-present shadow of corruption and you can see why we have more reason than most other people to complain.

Our political parties know this, of course. They know how disaffected we are. More importantly, they know how apathetic we are. They know we have a habit of complaining when things get rough, and another habit of staying home whenever the elections come around. And so, when the need to make a splash presents itself — as it has today, in the form of this pointless Bharat Bandh — they seize it with both hands.

What does a bandh accomplish anyway? The question has been posed a million times since 1947. There have been no satisfactory answers. Yes, fuel prices have risen, but will shutting down the country lead to oil companies reducing prices or state governments rolling back taxes?

In 2010, a 12-hour Bharat Bandh called for by the Opposition to protest against spiralling prices — proof that history does repeat itself — cost India a loss of an estimated Rs 13,000 crore, according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Back then, the Opposition was upset because diesel prices had risen by Rs 2 per litre, while petrol prices were up by Rs 3.5. Did the bandh magically lead to a drop in prices?

Political parties need to ask themselves — when they’re not thinking up other ways of damaging the economy, that is — what their priorities are. Is it publicity at any price? Or will they surprise us some day by putting India first? 

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